Senate debates voting rights bills as passage seems unlikely

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators debated two major Democratic-backed voting rights bills Tuesday which are likely to fail because of a lack of support in the Senate.

Democrats pressed ahead with the debate anyway because they said they wanted every Senator to be on the record about where they stand on the proposals.

“The eyes of the nation will be watching what happens this week in the United States Senate,” said Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “Senate Democrats are under no illusion that we face difficult odds … The public is entitled to know where each Senator stands on an issue.”

The focus is on two voting rights proposals that have already passed in the House: the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.

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Among the changes, the proposals would make voter registration easier, and Election Day would become a national holiday.

Supporters say they are needed to protect voting rights after more than a dozen states passed restrictive voting laws last year.

“They would set basic common-sense standards for all Americans for access to the ballot,” said Schumer.

“Vote to allow every American the ability to vote,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

But the proposals face opposition from all Republican Senators.

“Weakening widely popular voter ID laws and making it harder to produce accurate voter rolls is not about making voting easier,” said Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “It’s about making cheating easier.”

That Republican opposition is blocking the bills from passing under the current Senate rules which would require at least 60 votes in favor for it to pass.

“I support the American democratic system,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). “It does not need a fundamental rewrite.”

Democrats have pushed to change the Senate rule known as the filibuster in an effort to get the two bills passed.

President Biden said he supports getting rid of the filibuster, too.

Eliminating the filibuster would allow Democrats to pass the legislation with 50 votes in favor plus the Vice President casting the tie breaking vote.

But pushback from two moderate Democrats stands in the way.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have said they do no support changing the rule.

“I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country,” said Sinema last week.

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